Are you Ok?
For as long as I’ve been creating art I’ve been asked this question. "Are you ok?" The moment a dab of darkness entered my work, immediately those close to me assumed that I had somehow lost my mind and had detached from reality. "Are you depressed?"
I remember this clearly when I was around 16. I used to draw creepy fairies and faces with India ink and a dip pen. Bless my parents for always being supportive, but the look on their faces when I proudly showed my work was always telling. “Wow, that’s a little spooky…maybe not so dark?”
What’s wrong with the dark? If you are honest with yourself, we are all a little gritty. I think we are a little afraid of what is means to lose control. We are afraid to show others that part of us that maybe is a little sad, a little off kilter, a little wild, brutally honest and uncomfortable.
As you may have noticed, this is a topic that continues to motivate me to this day.
I use self-portraits a lot in my photography as I am continually fascinated by experimenting with photographing different aspects of a woman’s strength. Yes my portraits are parts of me, but at the same time I float separate from them, looking on as though watching a movie. We are all made up of a cast of characters.
When I had my son, I suddenly felt self-conscious about producing any kind of “darker” art. I mean, what would the playground moms say? It took me about 5 years to find my way back to myself. Once you stop caring how you will be perceived it becomes a huge game changer.
I’ve worked hard to stop trying to keep up appearances. I can still be a good mom and wife and be a wee bit dark and intense. But, trust me…I still have a ways to go…
Being yourself can be freeing. You may lose people along the way, but those that are on your wave length will find you and stay with you. Yes I have dark moments. Look at the world we live in! How can you not? Yes I am intense at times. Yes I’m Ok.
Back in 2016 I was struggling with my health and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Because of the unpredictable nature of my flare ups I was unable to keep my full time job as an Ecommerce Website administrator.
I had already begun showing my art in in local shows and decided to make the leap to full time artist. I was VERY fortunate to have the support of family around me who enabled me to stress less about finances and focus on my health and my art. I became a housewife/artist. I am grateful every day that I get to be home for my son and peruse my passion while managing my chronic illness.
Rejection is not something artists will usually talk about. You see all of our successes and our sales posted bold and bright online, but, what you don’t see are all the hours poured into things like websites, social media, applying for grants, shows and contests and the long list of rejection letters that comes with that.
For every one success I average about 15 rejections.
“We regret to inform you that your submission was not chosen to be included in this year's exhibition.”
“We appreciate the opportunity to view your portfolio. Unfortunately, you have not been selected to exhibit as an artist at this year’s show.”
“Regrettably, if you have NOT received another email from us earlier this morning, then unfortunately your application has not been selected to move forward.”
“We regret to inform you that we are unable to include your exhibition within our Featured program. “
“Our curators carefully reviewed your application and have decided not to show your work.”
You get the idea…!
Where did I go wrong? Maybe I’m not good enough? Maybe my ideas aren’t strong enough?
So what am I missing? Time….all of this takes time, patience and PERSEVERANCE!
Every time I receive a rejection notice it makes me push harder. See, here’s the thing…I can’t NOT create. It is part of who I am. It always was, and always will be. So I keep going. I try new ways to help bring money into our household while hanging on to being honest with my work. Somethings work, others flop big time.
Being an artist is 10% success and 90% self-doubt and rejection. Bring on the rollercoaster! I’m in it for the long game.
Whatever you are called to do, don’t give up. Breathe, and keep going!
To quote Galaxy Quest:
“What inspires you?” This question is asked a lot. Personally, I find it to be an enormous question.
I have always been incredibly observant. When I was young growing up in Sudbury, I remember watching the light through the trees. The way the shadows and lights morphed when the wind caught the leaves.
In this act of slowing down and noticing the nuances of nature it awakens you. You see more clearly and therefore anything can become an inspiration if you are still, and open.
For example – my latest photography series “Mad World”
My husband brought home new knives a few months ago. They are this really beautiful aqua blue colour. As I stared using them when cooking, I quickly became aware how amazingly they contrasted against certain foods like tomatoes and carrots. It was mesmerizing to me!
I knew right away that I wanted to try adding bold contrasts to a series of black and white photography -hence, all the aqua in my series.
The idea to theme it “Mad World” came to me when as I was working on the first piece. For some reason that song by Tears for Fears, by the same name, popped into my head. When I looked for a version of it to listen to on my phone I came across an incredibly haunting version by Jasmine Thompson, and continued to listen to it on repeat while I worked on this series.
That’s when the magic happens and the project becomes a congruent body of work exploring important social themes.
I don’t know what inspires me, because it is constantly changing.
Be still, be open, and it will come.
To see more of my "Mad World" Series click HERE
The process of photographing other women has been really eye opening. Every woman I photograph is self-conscious of her looks.
Do you not see what I see?
One woman went as far as to imply that it is in our DNA to look down upon our self-appearance.
When I am editing, I am often brought to tears by the nuances of the human face. The strength I see is incredible. Those certain freckles or laugh lines. Those lines from sorrow or stress. Those wrinkles you have? They are there because you are still alive! You have been though turmoil and have made it through. THIS MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL. All of it.
I implore you to take a closer look.
Look past the critic and see the nuances of your history. The things that make you unique, that make you strong. This is your beauty.
The wonderful thing about photographing portraits is that it is like taking a glimpse into a lifetime of history in a single frame.
We are all humans, but we carry our own life experiences in our eyes. Be brave, be yourself.
The first real 35mm camera I ever used was a Nikon FG that belonged to my father. I loved everything about that camera down to the smell. I was 17.
I never really understood ISO and shutter speed and shot mostly in auto mode, but in the age of disposable cameras, there was something very powerful about holding that camera and looking through the lens.
That camera is now broken, but I still have it and take it out every once and awhile just to look through it.
As a teenager I remember spending Saturday afternoons at chapters, sitting on the floor in the arts section, looking through the beautiful, glossy photography books. There was something ethereal about them.
The portraits were always my favorite. The way the eyes of the subject would bore right into me. I always was attracted to the bold contrasts of black and white images. The way the light illuminated the subject and caused an emotional response has always stuck with me.
As I venture back into this world of photography, these memories are fresh and I realize that all the artistic work I’ve done over the last few years has been preparing me to rediscover this lost love.